Determining How Fast or Slow To Make Decisions as a Leader

As leaders, we constantly have to make decisions. Every day there are countless decisions made, which impact or teams and mission. Good leaders understand the ramifications of decision-making and learn to use this power wisely.

In my experience, usually there are two immediate considerations when I am presented with the the opportunity to make a decision – fast or slow. Is this something I can or need to decide quickly or is it something for which we should proceed cautiously? Some decisions can (and should) be arbitrary decisions – decisions made very quickly. Others need to be calculated decisions – decisions made much slower. Growing to understand which type of decision-making to use at a given time will help you make better decisions and ultimately be a better leader.

According to, Arbitrary is based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system

Calculated is done with full awareness of the likely consequences; carefully planned or intended

I know leaders who have made very quick, instant, arbitrary decisions only to grow to regret them. (This leader being one.)

I know others, again including this one, who took too long to make a calculated decision and the delay was costly.

Here are 7 examples of thoughts which go into each type decision-making process:

Faster decisions:

  • There is a serious and immediate threat or danger to people or the organization
  • The perceived impact has a limited lifespan or is easily reversible
  • The decision has a low cost or investment
  • When the decision-maker is the implementer (this is a huge one in delegation)
  • I have a sure “gut” about it, it’s a “no brainer”
  • The same decision has been made many times
  • We are doing an “experiment” attached to a set time

While this is not a checklist, using some of those type parameters, I weigh my options and try to make decisions as quickly as possible, knowing there will be another decision which needs to be made soon.

And, then, sometimes, even though we can be overwhelmed with the amount of decisions needed, sometimes we simply need to take our time.

Slower decisions:

  • No serious threat exists to people or the organization – you don’t have to do this.
  • There are longer-term implications – we will have to live with this a while
  • Higher cost and greater human investment
  • When other people will have to be the implementers – it impacts others more than the decision-maker
  • When my gut isn’t at peace and I have no clear conviction
  • The decision has been made very few times, if ever
  • I haven’t consulted with a collection of wise voices – and there is time to do so

These are not foolproof and this is not an exhaustive lists in making decisions. Often we can make excuses to delay responding when in reality we know we need to make a decision. Other times we move so fast we never consider the impact on other people – people who have to live with the consequences of our decision. The main idea here is all decisions can’t be made at the same pace. Sometimes we move fast, with a very arbritrary decision. Sometimes we need to be very calculated in our response. Next time you have to make a decision, consider which method you should use for the occasion.

Do you see the difference in the two?

I should note, if God has made the answer clear you don’t need this post. Simply obey.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Marty says:

    The first word in the second sentence, “Everyday”, is an adjective without a noun to modify, such “Everyday chores”, which might describe chores done daily versus those done weekly.

    The correct phrase for your sentence is “Every day” (two words, meaning every single day). One would not use “Everyweek”, or “Everymonth”, if the periods of time were weeks or months, so everyday is somewhat unique in its existence as well as its application.

    This was a calculated decision to send the comment, with the full realization that there’s only a 50-50 chance of it being taken as constructive.

  • Richard D. Manuel says:

    I should have made a calculated decision when I left a job some years back without consulting anyone in my family or friends and paid heavy price for my mistake later. Now, I understand the value of calculated decisions in my life. safety mats

  • Molly says:

    I have recently been accused of arbitrarily making unilateral decisions at work. The sad part is, that for the individual accusing me of this, does not realize that it was a calculated decision. The consequences were heavily weighed and measured. The amount of b.s. that is now reigning down was also taken into account. She is now dragging administration into the equation, as well as the remainder of the department. The thing is, the calculated decision was for the greater good and she can't see that. I did what was right because it is what someone else/another department requested be done. This had other implementers, calculated risks and consequences, and long-term implications. However, the scathing email and verbal abuse in front of my students was not calculated. I appreciate your article because it spells out how very wrong she was when she said I made arbitrary decisions time and time again that affect others but she feels I don't take that into account. I did, she just can't see that. Thanks, for your help!

  • […] 7 Characteristics in Arbitrary and Calculated Decision-Making […]

  • Very good post! We are linking to this particularly great article on our site. Keep up the great writing.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Margaret, I am so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine the pain you must be experiencing. This sounds like something you have a genuine passion for. There have been so many causes by people like you, who after tragedy decided to do something to help others. The whole "Amber Alert" system started that way. There are also associations and groups for people who have lost loved ones to violence. Why not contact some established organization like that and see how they gained momentum for their cause or see if there is some partnership opportuniites? I'll pray with you about this. There has to be other like-minded people on this issue, especially among those who have been hurt so deeply in this way.
    Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • Margaret says:

    What can we do if we are victims of a type of bullying called mobbing and gangstalking? We are abused by police, firemen, city hall, social services, etc for no reason other than for some reason we are targeted. We do nothing wrong yet we are constantly abused and harassed. Is there anyone who can help us? My son committed suicide over this.

  • Ron! I am able to see the difference.

    I am guilty of making a arbitrary decision when I should have made a calculated decision when I left a job some years back without consulting anyone in my family or friends and paid heavy price for my mistake later. Now, I understand the value of calculated decisions in my life.

    Your post was timely. Thanks for sharing with us.


  • Great post Ron. Made me think.

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